TOP NOTES - Dominic Hawksley
The founder of Olverum and custodian of possibly the world’s finest bath oil tells us how his world was shaped by his sense of smell and how his former profession served him well when his life took a completely new direction.
What was your first aromatic memory?
It was actually a combination of scents. When I was a kid, many of our family holidays were spent on the Cote d’Azur. I have five brothers and sisters and growing up money was tight so we’d pile in to the car and drive overnight, waking in the early morning to the rising sun and the herbaceous aromas of rosemary, lavender, cistus, and juniper - the unmistakable fragrance of the Garrigue. For me, those scents will always mean the holiday has begun.
How did you first get into the world of fragrance and wellbeing?
My parents had founded a perfumery in London’s Belgravia, Les Senteurs. It was a unique, legendary place where some of the world’s greatest noses launched their own personal creations in the UK - what we now call ‘niche fragrance’ brands before the term had been coined. Many of those perfumers would visit the shop and I was lucky enough to meet luminaries like Annick Goutal, Francois Robert, and Mona di Orio. Listening to them speak and feeling the passion they had for their craft, the alchemy of perfumery and building their brands was truly inspiring.
Was your role in the family business a given?
My father had discovered Olverum purely by chance in the early eighties and in 2014 my family had the opportunity to acquire the brand. I came on board to oversee its development and saw my responsibility as preserving its ethos and building on its heritage, applying the latest learnings and developments in botanical cosmetic science to creating new products. It’s a huge privilege and I’m proud to have re-launched Olverum for a new generation.
Olverum is said to be a cult brand. What makes it so well-loved?
We’ve never compromised or sacrificed quality for cost in developing products and I think our customers appreciate that. It’s vital to continue responsibly, sourcing the finest and most effective ingredients and naturals to make our products the very best they can be. Our bath oil has a rightful reputation as the world’s finest therapeutic oil because its formulation really does change the way change you feel. ‘Iconic’ is an over-used word but I feel Olverum definitely deserves its place in the pantheon of self-care brands.
Previously, you had a successful career as a professional actor. Has that helped?
Well, I had my moments – but they were really just moments. Actors are storytellers. You need to create spell to draw people in. And when building an authentic character with an inner life or finding the truth of a scene or a relationship, you have to consider every angle, every element – sensual, emotional, physical, psychological, spatial. In doing so, you make an emotional connection with your audience. I loved that it used every part of my brain. So there are parallels in what we do here. We create authentic, high-performance products with real character that are as much about how they make you feel as how they make you look; we understand the value of deep preparation; and our method is scientifically rigorous. I guess all that’s highly relevant when your business is about taking care of the outer and inner self.
How do you see Olverum evolving in future?
Sustainability will always be a priority for us, so is making sure we appeal to all genders. As a natural brand we are constantly on the lookout for efficacious, often new-to-market ingredients, and ways to improve and refine the quality of our formulations. We may diversify and introduce new lines as we go but our aim will always be focused on crafting high-performance, natural products that work on many levels to restore mind, body and soul to their ideal natural state.
Do you ever switch off?
What we do at Olverum is a bit of a quest to be honest and part of my mind is always ticking away thinking how to create and curate a better collection - closely followed by how to grow the business to the point of world domination, of course. The whole team is constantly busy honing its expertise, pushing for more responsible sources of raw materials and packaging, and devising better self-care rituals.
What’s your favourite Olverum product?
While I can take absolutely no credit for it, that has to be our bath oil. It really is an elixir whose restorative properties seem preternatural. And it’s a perfect encapsulation of our ethos: mindful luxury, powered by nature, finessed by science.
How would you describe “Essence of Dominic”?
Hmm. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I happen to share a star sign with Napoleon and Mussolini so how about “Charming with a whiff of benign dictator”?